A blessing given to Ruth Hardy Funk as a teenager changed the direction of her life. The seventh General President of the Young Women (ages 12-18) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons, LDS) explained during an interview in 2010:
During my teen age years I had a few lessons with Leopold Godowsky, a famous pianist, who had a friendship with my teacher and visited Salt Lake City on a few occasions. He encouraged me to pursue a concert career and to study at a conservatory in the east. We thought long and hard about this possibility. My father said he would give me a blessing so I would know what I should do. With my parents we fasted before the blessing. Mother came in the room, and my father blessed me: ‘Your Father in Heaven wants you to continue with your work on the piano, but as for a concert career, He has other things in mind for you.” The way my life has unfolded, everything was based on that blessing.
Ruth Hardy was born in Chicago, IL on February 11, 1917 to Thomas Frederick and Polly Reynolds Hardy and raised in Salt Lake City where she began piano lessons when she was five years old. By the time she was in high school she was well known for her musical ability and often accompanied performers at East High School (‘34). In addition to performing for Godowsky, she also played for Helen Keller.
She was a student body officer in high school and college as well as president of her sorority, Pi Kappa Phi at the University of Utah (‘38). She graduated with a degree in music and married Marcus C. Funk in the Salt Lake Temple. They moved to Chicago where he attended dental school at Northwestern University. The couple had four children, 19 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.
Sister Funk was called to the MIA general board (the original youth program) when she was only 29 years old. In 1962 she was called by Elder Harold B. Lee to be a member of his newly-formed Correlation Committee. For ten years she evaluated and wrote church curriculum, including materials for the Young Women’s program.
She began teaching at East High School in Salt Lake City in 1969 and continued until 1972, when President Lee, who had been called as the new Mormon prophet, appointed her to succeed Florence Jacobson as the General President of the Young Women. She served with her counselors Hortense Hogan Child Smith and Ardeth Greene Kapp until 1978 and was also on the executive committee of the National Council of Women during that time. While she was president, Personal Progress and the Young Women Recognition Award were implemented throughout the LDS Church.
Sister Funk was asked to speak in the Mormon general Women’s Conference just after she had been released as president. She testified:
Jesus Christ is our Savior, our brother, our friend. He is as near as we allow him to be. Our only ultimate joy and happiness is predicated upon our relationship with him. Our only peace, through disappointments, sorrow, and challenges, will come as we draw nearer unto him. With such love for our Redeemer, every difficult experience may be met with courage, acceptance, and even gratitude. His love for us is a gift beyond price. What does he ask in return? “Love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34.)
Sister Funk was a member of the Utah State Board of Education from 1985 to 1992, where she served as chairman for a year. She also served as the chairman of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in Utah and as a board member for Bonneville International Corporation. In addition, she was on the boards of Bonneville International and Promised Valley Playhouse.
In 2009, President Thomas S. Monson honored Sister Funk at a special Church luncheon. Mary N. Cook, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said this about Funk: “Always an optimist and with an incredible zest for living, she has shared that zeal with countless children and youth. She is known for her love of music and youth and those two loves were often combined during her service.”
Sister Funk died February 5, 2011, just a week before her 94th birthday. In a final tribute, her obituary read:
She leaves us all with remarkable memories of those moments when as a mother, wife or grandma she shared many “one-on-one” adventures accompanying her on her travels to cities all around the world – from New York to Auckland. No obituary could ever embody the remarkable spirit and contributions of this uniquely loving, passionate and generous woman. But the lives of all those who were blessed to be a part of Ruth’s life were undoubtedly made “more marvelous” because of it.
Article written by Jan
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.